Bodybuilder Maughan Wellam, 10, flexes for fun
A BIKINI-clad 10-year-old girl has appeared in a bodybuilding competition in Melbourne, sparking concern from health experts and family groups.
Maughan Wellham was given her own category because she was so young.
Organisers have said they will consider regular events for 10-year-olds.
"She looked fantastic. She even flexed her abs and the crowds went wild over it," event organiser Tony Lanciano said.
"I've never seen anything like that."
Mum Michelle Wellham said she saw nothing wrong with her daughter's daring display at the All Female Natural Muscle & Fitness Classic at the Glen Eira Auditorium last Saturday.
"Maughan wanted to do it for fun. So I investigated it. I am very protective of my children," she said.
The mum of five, from Maitland in NSW, said Maughan was a fitness fanatic who runs, does push-ups and squats, but doesn't use weights. "I think it's very irresponsible to put a child on weights," she said.
Maughan said she wanted to be an Olympic athlete rather than a bodybuilder, and was inspired by runners such as Jana Rawlinson.
She entered the competition to have fun after watching bodybuilding shows.
"I wasn't nervous. I just jumped around and was just so excited," she said.
But child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said Maughan was too young to be flaunting her body and it could send out the wrong message to image-conscious kids.
"The thing that concerns me is that young people can damage themselves quite badly if they over-exercise when young," he said.
"What we should be saying to kids is they should be valued more for what they do than how they look."
Leading sports and exercise physician Peter Larkins said it was precocious for a 10-year-old to do body posing.
Dr Larkins was not critical of Maughan, but added: "Weight training at the pre-pubertal age group is not safe or effective. You don't have the hormones responsible for muscular development."
Australian Family Association president Angela Conway said putting the spotlight on young body shapes and passing judgment could have far-reaching consequences.
"There is a growing concern among young children about their body shape, and an increase in children coming into the Royal Children's Hospital eating disorders unit," she said.
Mr Lanciano, president of the Australian branch of the International Natural Bodybuilding Association, said the INBA would consider opening a new category for children aged 10-17
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